It’s Lit But Is It Funny?

Over the last few months, I’ve been getting into podcasts. Not sure if this is a pandemic thing or a way-of-staying-sane-while-assembling-a-stupidly-complicated-polytunnel thing (don’t ask), but I really like the way you can carry a show around with you, bluetoothing it either to your headphones or the speakers in your office or even the car, picking up from where you left off last time.

Of course, thinking the way I tend to think, I began to wonder if I could put one together myself and if so, what form it might take. I did try setting up a book review vlog a while back, but I stopped doing that mainly because I found it quite hard to talk to the camera in a suitably spontaneous manner and I never managed to find the right balance between script and ad-lib. Also, I looked awful.

Now a podcast is a slightly different proposition if you have, like me, a great face for radio, and it’s also less intrusive, as you’re only demanding that the audience devotes one of their senses to you for the duration of each episode rather than two. However, my limited research has led me to the conclusion that there are very few amateur podcasters who can hold their own with just their own voice without getting annoying (Julie McDowell of Atomic Hobo is one of the few who definitely can – highly recommended).

So I decided that a two-voice format would be the best approach, and the best way to do this would be to invite a new guest on every episode. But what to talk about? Well, it was obvious in the end: the thing that no-one talks about in the book world. Funny books. I decided that the guest would choose a favourite funny book to talk about and then we’d talk about their own work as well. I drew up a shortlist of people who I thought might be interested in this sort of thing, and gratifyingly, all three of them said yes.

The next question was what to call it. I quite liked “Dissecting the Live Kitten”, on the basis that someone (I’m not sure who) once described analysing comedy as being like dissecting a live cat to find out why it’s purring. However, there was quite a good chance that the likes of iTunes wouldn’t even run a podcast with a title like that, so I next wondered about “Plumpod”, being a snappy little neologism based on P.G.Wodehouse’s nickname. But on reflection, there was a danger that a name like that could steer the podcast into dead white men category, and I really didn’t want to do that.

So I’ve ended up with “It’s Lit But Is It Funny?”, although I’d like to think will be shortened by the hardcore fans to “LitBut”. There’s now a dedicated page to it on this site, which will be updated as more episodes get added. Right now, there’s just my rather stilted introduction available, but it does include the jaunty intro music that I threw together using GarageBand AND the logo that I made with Canva.

The first proper episode should be appearing around February 22nd, featuring Toby Frost talking about Kingsley Amis’s “Lucky Jim”, which I’m currently thoroughly enjoying re-reading prior to our recording session next week. After that we’ll have Isabel Rogers talking about W.C.Sellar and R.J.Yeatman’s “1066 and All That”, which was one of my favourite books when I was a kid. Then we have Lev Parikian talking about Nora Ephron’s “Heartburn”, which I haven’t read yet, although I’m pretty certain I’ve seen the film. More guests will be confirmed in due course.

I launched it on Twitter on Monday evening and I’m really pleased at the positive reaction to the idea. I really think there’s a hunger for this sort of thing, especially while we’re in the middle of ALL THIS (waves hands dramatically). We’ll see how it goes, anyway. I’m feeling really excited about it and also quite unbelievably nervous, because this kind of thing is waaaaaay outside my comfort zone. But that’s always the most interesting place to visit, isn’t it?

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